StoryCorps In Kansas City — Living Through The Trauma Of Integrating America | KCUR

StoryCorps In Kansas City — Living Through The Trauma Of Integrating America

Oct 29, 2018

StoryCorps' MobileBooth came to Kansas City to collect the stories and memories of residents. This is one in a series of stories KCUR has chosen to highlight.

Note: This post contains racial slurs and descriptions of violence. 

Rebecca Liberty and Necia Gamby call themselves "sister friends" because their bond is so tight. But the women came from very different environments growing up.

Gamby remembered when her family moved to 55th and Garfield in Kansas City in the early 1960s. The area was predominantly white, and the few black people, including Gamby, were treated with open disdain and violence. She remembers starting middle school and being called the N-word on the bus every day.

"I had things thrown at me, bricks thrown at the bus at me. I was greatly traumatized," said Gamby.

Several years later, white families began to flock west of Troost Avenue and to the suburbs, flipping the demographic of the area from almost all white to almost all black.

Even that was a shock for Gamby.

"It's the majority versus the minority," Gamby said. "The twenty black kids that got their asses kicked every day after school because they were black turned into the majority of black children who whipped the asses of the twenty white kids that were impoverished and couldn't move away.

"It tore me up inside because it made me feel like that's human nature, mob mentality. It broke my heart."

For Liberty, stories of race came from her family ancestry and early life in the Ioway Reservation in White Cloud, Kansas. She remembers a story of her great-grandmother experiencing segregation firsthand.

"Our great-grandmother Josie was denied entry in a room on her honeymoon night at the hotel in White Cloud, Kansas, because she was a 'half-breed' of Iowa Indian and Scottish/French marrying a white man," Liberty said. 

She's thankful that her grandmother told that story because it helped her understand the value of the Civil Rights movement.

"She was trying to help us understand that what we were experiencing came through hard work of people making change," Liberty said. "Life wasn't always that way."

Matthew Long-Middleton is a community producer for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter @MLMIndustries.

Cody Newill is an audience development specialist for KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter @CodyNewill.